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322 Tasting Notes


It is immediately apparent, upon opening this package that all the teas I have been drinking labeled “wuyi” are basically da hong pao clippings too many generations removed to be sold under that name. The dry leaf smells and looks the same. The wet leaf smells and looks the same. Black strap, new leather, and the skins of oven roasted potatoes.

Steeping double gaiwan style with a generous leaf ratio and a quick rinse to hydrate the leaves and heat the items (it has felt cold/drafty in the house prior to sun-up around here even though it isn’t really anything like “cold” out, Houston walls just aren’t that insulated).

1st ~ A very light brew. Amber honey color. Mostly getting the new leather with just a slight hint of that sweet molases and toasted/roasted aroma.

2nd ~ A bit darker, and a bit bolder. The three primary profile elements are more balanced in this cup. I am always amazed at the complete lack of fruit or floral notes in this tea while at the same time having nothing in the way of earthy tones (wet stone, loam) either. This tea manages to be all roast and sweetness.

3rd ~ Now the roast/toast is becoming most dominant.

I’ll keep up the infusions with this one today, but I definitely want to try this tea Western style as well.

I really need to get four yixing – one for shu, one for sheng, one for oolong and one for Yunnan gold. I suspect this tea would really shine in a well seasoned yixing.

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After my confounding experience with the yabao I needed something soothing and familiar.

I haven’t had a draught of this tea in… ten months. That’s about nine months and three weeks too long.

If you are at all a fan of smoke in tea, try this tea. It is not one of the “meaty” lapsangs. No bacon, no beef jerky, no barbecue, it tastes like smokey tea.

This is one of my favorite teas in the world. I often stray, but I always come back.

I don’t think I’ve ever steeped it this briefly before, and the result is still fantastic.

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This has been on my wishlist forever.


Oh the power of suggestion….guess what I picked for my morning tea?

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Steeps 4, 5 and 6 have gone in much the same way.

I think I must not have used nearly enough buds.

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All my teas arrived today, and I decided to start with the one I have no prior experience to benchmark. There is simply nothing like a yabao other than yabao. I tried to order the late winter variant, but they must be out because the site kept redirecting me to these and these are what I got.

To say this is going to be an exercise in subtly would be a vast understatement.

The buds are quite fat, and the color of lawn thatch when dry. They have almost no aroma that I can detect.

I did a quick rinse to remove dust and to heat all my vessels, I’m using my new double gaiwan technique to do steepings. Watching the buds pop open is a bit creepy and the whole affair reminds me a bit of eating crickets.

The wet buds smell exactly like bai mu dan, which makes perfect sense. They’re both white buds.

1st ~ As long as it took to pour the water in, cover, and pour the water out. The result is almost perfectly clear. But there is flavor, here. I’ll be darned if the toasted marshmallow comment in the write-up isn’t true. There’s also a non-green vegetable here. Maybe a root or tuber. Like ginger but not quite that sharp.

2nd ~ Again, just a few seconds. Still no color. Again, something sweet and biting, like ginger candy, but very soft. Maybe it isn’t a vegetable, maybe it is Autumnal leaf piles. Maybe it is old, wet ones moldering a bit.

This is not a tea for accompanying anything. It requires total concentration to taste anything at all.

3rd ~ A three count between pouring and pouring. Just a bit of a hint of yellow color. Flavor a bit more present, but still very gentle.

The write-up claims you can get 18 infusions, but I don’t know if I can focus that long.

I used 1tsp in a gaiwan which is what the instructions recommend, but I think next time I’ll try more and see if I can’t get things a bit more concentrated.

This is very interesting, but I’m hard-pressed to see it becoming a staple on my shelf.

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I think you can safely read teaspoon as tablespoon. You’ll enjoy it more if you put in what a tsp of tea would normally be… by weight- the tea is so super light and fluffy.

Jim Marks

Yes, that’s the conclusion I reached by the end of the adventure.

I think I will also put off returning to this tea until this phase of gloomy weather we’re having passes. It doesn’t have quite enough oomph for gloomy weather.

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drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
322 tasting notes

The sipping down continues.

Orders with Upton and Verdant have been placed and are anxiously awaited.

Yesterday afternoon we shared a good six steepings of this tea with the reverend Father Symeon during his visit to perform the annual blessing of our home. It proved the perfect brew to stimulate a prolonged discussion and good fellowship.

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Jim, do you ever post reviews on Upton’s website? I have, and if you want you can view mine. I’m Scott from Ohio.

Jim Marks

No, I don’t think that I have.


I want to order from them but I get overwhelmed when I see all the options. There are a couple I know I want, and I want that tea scale!

Jim Marks

I’ve never had a tea I didn’t like because of poor quality, just matters of taste. They sell great tea. Just go for it.

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drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
322 tasting notes

I had to “put up” the green pu-erh cake from Central Market to age at least six months, maybe a year. This leaves (no pun intended) me with just a few teas that I am slowly working my way through so that I can justify an order to Upton, Verdant and/or Red Blossom.

So, this means many cups of this gyokuro and another lesser Japanese green that Liz brought back with her from Tokyo.

In having complained about the lackluster nature of this tea in the past, I have been thinking about what I can do to allow it to show me the best it has to offer.

I remembered observing a senchado — Japanese tea ceremony utilizing sencha instead of matcha — and that their steep times were quite short. Since I am currently obsessed with my two gaiwan method of preparation I have been engaging a very short steep time and the result has been interesting.

Early steeps are extremely delicate and are such a pale green they are almost blue. The liqueur is almost sweet. Later steeps take on the more traditional yellow-green with the stronger, more vegetal flavors.

At least it keeps me busy.

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I found a tiny bit of this left over as well, and so I’m in use-up-samples mode before I compile my order of new teas for 2012.

I’m bumping this up a bit having had it on the heels of the Xin Yang Mao Jian. The two are so different that I’m able to appreciate this cup a lot more than the last time I tasted it.

The Xin Yang Mao Jian is delicate and shy. This is big, bold, strong and a bit unrefined (but not in a bad way). I love the Xin Yang Mao Jian in my delicate little gaiwan but I feel like I should be drinking this Chun Mei out of my 16 ounce mug with the Ester Island face on it.

The color is a deep golden and yet the flavor has very little roast this time. This is like an untamed thicket of rioting green foliage.

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I discovered we had a big stash of this from our original sample that never got consumed before the holiday break, so I have been contentedly “sipping it down” each day from my new gaiwan.

This tea fits the gaiwan perfectly. The leaves open up huge and full in the cup, the liqueur is nearly the same color as the cup itself.

I feel like a decadent ex-pat during the 1930’s with this cup and this tea.


“decadent ex-pat” What does this mean? I can’t come up with any ideas.

Jim Marks

An ex-patriot would be, in this case, a Western person living in Mainland China. A great deal of what prompted the [so called] people’s revolution was connected with the imperialistic, decadent lifestyle which was lived by such people.

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Aaaaand we’re back.

I am brewing this up in my brand spanking new gaiwan. Actually I’m brewing it up in my brand spanking new 1 and 2/3’s gaiwan. My sister-in-law got me a gorgeous little number and the first one shipped with a broken saucer, so I have two cups, two lids and one saucer. I’m using the saucerless one to do the steep and strain and I’m drinking from the complete set. (no cups)

So far, this pu-erh doesn’t completely wow me. I want there to be something soft, round and mellow to balance out the sharp notes. Maybe I should wrap it up and age it for a few months or a year.

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Today I chose poorly. This tea is all wrong for today. The cheery, light floral back notes are completely at odds not only with the blustery gray day but also the semi-negative anticipation which is building about holiday travel in just a few days time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love visiting them and spending time. In fact, only seeing them once a year for a few days is one of the few genuine disappointments about the current state of my “grown up” life.

But the four hour flight to and from Philadelphia, coupled with the time wasted in both IAH and PHL — dealing with park’n’ride, the complete lack of automated baggage check for people who are already checked into their flight and have already paid for baggage, dealing with the TSA, dealing with the complete lack of anything that actually resembles food in either airport… that I am not looking forward to at all. Thank God we don’t have to deal with connecting flights.

I like the actual act of flying. I find it completely magical. But for the practical task of getting from A to B, I am much more of a road warrior at heart than a jet setter.

I know, I know. First world problems. I’ll shut up and drink my floral tea now.

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I am rarely, if ever, active here. But I do return from time to time to talk about a very special tea I’ve come across.

You can hear the music I compose here:

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy

I blog about cooking here https://dungeonsandkitchens.wordpress.com

I blog about composing music and gardening here


Houston, TX